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2018 Colts Preview: Colts/Texans, Wild Card Round

2018_1209_HOU_3521

INDIANAPOLIS — The third act of the Indianapolis Colts (10-6) and Houston Texans (11-5) 2018 series is its most important: kicking off the NFL playoffs. This time, the loser's season is over while the winner continues its push for Super Bowl LIII.

The Colts have dominated the all-time series between these two teams, but there have been no matchups between AFC South foes in the playoffs since its inception in 2002. Arguably the biggest game in AFC South history will be played this weekend; let's get ready.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Saturday, Jan. 5 at 4:35 p.m. ET
  • Houston; NRG Stadium
  • TV: ESPN — Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Jason Witten and Booger McFarland (color), and Lisa Salters (sideline)
  • To find out what games will be on in your area, check here
  • Radio: WFNI “1070 The Fan” and WLHK “HANK FM” — Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Jim Sorgi (color) and Caroline Cann (sideline) | Westwood One — Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Brian Griese (color) and Hub Arkush (sideline)

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Colts lead, 26-8, and are 12-5 against the Texans at NRG Stadium. The Colts have won three of the last four dating back to 2017.
  • Last game — Week 14 of 2018. The Colts won, 24-21.

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Texans:

  • HC/OC Bill O'Brien
  • DC Romeo Crennel
  • STC Brad Seely

LAST WEEK

Colts:

  • Won vs. Tennessee Titans (9-7), 33-17

Texans:

  • Won vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11), 20-3

INJURY UPDATE

*The Colts and Texans conducted a walkthrough on Tuesday. Tuesday's practice report was only an estimation of a player's participation if there was a practice.

Colts:

  • S Clayton Geathers (knee): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Tuesday, full participant Wednesday, did not practice Thursday
  • WR Ryan Grant (toe): OUT — Did not practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • WR Dontrell Inman (shoulder/finger): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • DL Tyquan Lewis (knee): OUT — Did not practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • WR Zach Pascal (knee): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Tuesday, limited participant Wednesday, full participant Friday
  • DE Jabaal Sheard (knee): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Tuesday, Wednesday, did not practice Thursday
  • S J.J. Wilcox (ankle): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Thursday

Texans:

  • WR Keke Coutee (hamstring): QUESTIONABLE — Full participant Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • RB Buddy Howell (hamstring): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • 1-0 — The Colts' mantra this season under head coach Frank Reich has been focusing on going 1-0 every week, and focusing on the task at hand helped them win nine out of the last 10 games. Whatever comes after the immediate week doesn't matter. You can only control what you do this week. This is the exact mindset you have to have in the playoffs, so the Colts have already lived that throughout the season.
  • Dominance In The Trenches — For the Colts' offense against the Texans' defense, it's strength versus strength pitting the two lines against each other. Houston's defensive line will probably never be dominated, but can the Colts keep quarterback Andrew Luck protected and do enough to get the chains moving by Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines? On the flip side of the coin, the Colts' defensive line should maintain their advantage over Houston's offensive line. In two previous matchups this season, the Colts have sacked Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson 12 times. Site note: neither defense has allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.
  • Does Containing Hopkins Mean Vulnerability To Tight Ends? — The Colts did a great job against one of the league's best receivers in DeAndre Hopkins in Week 14, as he caught four balls for 36 yards and a touchdown. However, Houston's tight ends had a productive day instead, totaling 11 catches for 151 yards. The Colts got the win, so that's what matters most. However, if they contain Hopkins again then does it mean the tight ends leak through their defense again?
  • It Doesn't Have To Be The T.Y. Hilton Show — Hilton led the NFL in receiving yards over the second half of the regular season, but the Colts have won multiple games this year without him having those dominating performances. By now, just about every NFL fan knows that Hilton performs at an elite level again Houston — especially in Houston — but it doesn't have to be that way in order for them to win.
  • Regain The AFC South — In recent seasons while the Colts have struggled, the rest of the AFC South caught up to them. The other three teams each made the playoffs at least once from 2015-17, and they have two teams back in the postseason this year with the Colts and Texans. Although the Texans won the AFC South this season, the Colts are in a position to beat them two out of three times in 2018-19 (including a playoff game) and set themselves up to be perhaps the favorites to win the division in 2019.

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Texans CB Johnathan Joseph — This is a fiery matchup, as the two engaged in fistacuffs last year in Week 17. In Week 14 of this season in Houston after Hilton put up 199 yards, he joked that people say it's his second home. Joseph took exception to that this week, saying, "Nah, man, that's for clowns," per Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. "That's for TV. That's what they do. You put something in their face, anybody can say it... Sounds good, it's easily said. I could easily say that, too. We could call the division our division since I've been here, last five out of eight years. It's not our first rodeo, so we'll be ready."
  • Colts RB Nyheim Hines/TE Eric Ebron vs. Texans LB Zach Cunningham/Ss Tyrann Mathieu/Justin Reid — The Colts have found ways to use Hines and Ebron as mismatches against Houston's back seven. In two games while matched up against Cunningham, Mathieu and Reid, Ebron has caught 5-of-11 targets for 56 yards (11.2 avg) for three first downs and two touchdowns. Hines hasn't been matched up against Reid, but against Cunningham and Mathieu he's caught nine-of-10 targets for 56 yards (6.2 avg), five first downs and two touchdowns.
  • Colts OTs Anthony Castonzo/Braden Smith vs. Texans EDs Jadeveon Clowney/J.J. Watt — Houston has talent all over its defense, but up front you primarily have to worry about Pro-Bowlers Watt and Clowney. "I think the biggest way is you have to mix it up," Reich said about countering the duo. "You don’t want to get in one mode, you know? Great players like that you have to attack in multiple ways. You’ve got to be able to run the football, you don’t want to get in just a pass mode, you’ve got to be able to chip some, you’ve got to be able to use your play-action, you’ve got to be able to change some things up formationally like that to present different looks for them. So I think the key is mixing all those up together.”
  • Colts CBs Pierre Desir/Kenny Moore II vs. Texans WRs DeAndre Hopkins/Keke Coutee — When you think about beating Houston, you think about Hopkins right away. In two games, he was matched up quite a bit against Desir and Moore, catching six-of-10 targets for 112 yards. The pair did a much better job against him in Week 14, holding him to 23 yards. Coutee didn't play in Week 14 (and is still questionable this week), but Week 4 was his first career game, and he went off for 11 catches for 109 yards. He caught a ton of short balls and was matched up quite a bit with safeties and linebackers. Moore would likely be more involved against Coutee this week than Desir.

REFEREE ASSIGNMENT

BETTING LINE

LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Andrew Luck (4,593 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (908 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (1,270 yards)
  • Touchdowns — TE Eric Ebron (14)
  • Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (163)
  • Sacks — DL Denico Autry (9.0)
  • Interceptions — CB Kenny Moore II (3)

Texans:

  • Passing — QB Deshaun Watson (4,165 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Lamar Miller (973 yards)
  • Receiving — WR DeAndre Hopkins (1,572 yards)
  • Touchdowns — WR DeAndre Hopkins (11)
  • Tackles — LB Zach Cunningham (107)
  • Sacks — DE J.J. Watt (16.0)
  • Interceptions — S Andre Hal, S Justin Reid (3)

COMPARING 2018 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 7th (386.2 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 5th (27.1 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 6th (278.8 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — 1st (18)
  • Running offense — 8th (126.3 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 1st (49%)
  • Red zone offense — 5th (68.8%)
  • Total defense — 11th (339.4 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 10th (21.5 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 16th (237.8 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-19th (38)
  • Running defense — 8th (101.6 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 23rd (41%)
  • Red zone defense — 11th (53.5%)
  • Time of possession — 18th (30:05)
  • Turnover differential — 14th (+2)

Texans:

  • Total offense — 15th (362.6 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 11th (25.1 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 17th (236.3 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — 32nd (62)
  • Running offense — 20th (107.4 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 20th (37%)
  • Red zone offense — 28th (50.0%)
  • Total defense — 12th (343.1 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — Tied-4th (19.8 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 28th (260.4 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-11th (43)
  • Running defense — 3rd (82.7 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 20th (40%)
  • Red zone defense — 29th (70.7%)
  • Time of possession — 11th (30:46)
  • Turnover differential — 2nd (+13)

NOTES AND QUOTES

  • This week, the Colts made the following moves: Signed DE Geneo Grissom, and waived CB Jalen Collins. Signed Collins and S Rolan Milligan to the practice squad, and released LB Tegray Scales and DE Anthony Winbush from the practice squad. Signed OG William Poehls to a reserve/future contract.
  • Reich on having kicker Adam Vinatieri address the team about playing in the playoffs: “I think there is something to be said for the experience and you share that. I actually had Vinny (Adam Vinatieri) share a couple things with the guys today in our team meeting. I texted Vinny last night. Just going into it I was sitting around thinking, ‘Okay, how many playoff games has he played?’ And Matt (Conti) did the research for me, it was 30 (games). So I said, ‘Alright, tell me Vinny what have you learned?’ So the message that he sent me I thought was vintage and we shared that with the team this morning and had Vinny share a few extra thoughts on that. A lot of wisdom in what he was saying.”
  • Reich on facing a familiar division opponent in the playoffs: “I mean I think there are pros and cons to it. I have faced it as a player and coach several times, so it is not that uncommon. Like I said, there are pros and cons. You know them well and they know you well. So you have to fight to find ways to make slight changes but don’t go crazy. You’ve got to avoid the mistake of ‘Hey, we’ve got to be drastically different just because they know us.’ At the end of the day, you have to do what got you here but then you still have to have a few new wrinkles, a few un-scouted looks to keep them guessing a little bit.”

WILD CARD ROUND PLAYOFF BRACKET

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